Church Exhibitions Review


During April the Yapton & Ford Local History Group undertook an ambitious project by staging two exhibitions on consecutive Saturdays in April. The first one, whose venue was the church of St Mary at Yapton on the 18th followed by a similar exhibition in St Andrew-by-the-Ford the following Saturday. The exhibitions were based on the history of each of the churches and their influence on the communities in which they served.

Following many months of research and organising by a team of dedicated members, displays covering various aspects of the church histories were compiled and a programme of events arranged for visitors to enjoy. Sources for material were many and varied including personal accounts and collections, and material from West Sussex Record Office, Chichester Cathedral, University of Chichester Library as well as the internet. Complementing the static displays was a programme of talks, music and demonstrations.

On a glorious day with wall to wall blue skies, the doors of the exhibition were opened to the public at 11 am and early visitors took advantage of a leisurely look at the displays on show. Amongst the displays was one that traced the history of the church from its Saxon roots to the present day highlighting the development of the building to what it is today. The incumbents were covered by another display with the focus being on two or three vicars where information was uncovered about their lives. During the research anomalies were discovered in the generally accepted published list of incumbents. These anomalies will be the subject of further work by the Group.

A series of photographs displayed in great detail the Belfry and the mechanism by which the six bells are rung by a group of well practiced bell-ringers who demonstrated the art a later during the afternoon. These bells are not the original ones which were destroyed in the Bell Tower fire of 1909. The original four were re-cast and two more have since been added. The rim of one of the destroyed bells was made into a candelabrum and can be seen hanging from the ceiling.

The largest exhibit was a print of the 1839 Tithe Map which recorded in great detail, every house, barn field, orchard and gardens as well as every road, track and path. Each feature was numbered and the accompanying Tithe Apportionment schedule gave the owner, occupier, description of the feature, what it was used for and its area.

Yapton Tithe Map

A display that moved many people was positioned near to the Great War memorial plaque. It contained a brief history of all those who had fallen and a map pinpointing where they had lived prior to answering their Country’s call.

Following a Welcome talk, the programme at St Mary’s included a demonstration of Bell Ringing, talks about the church with various features being highlighted as well as attention being drawn to copies of original documents which were on display. Among these were examples from the birth, marriage and death registers. Yapton Place, now totally demolished, and the lives of the people who lived there was the subject of another short talk. Music was supplied by ‘City Wall Productions’, a four voice choir accompanied by a recorder and cello, which was very well received by the audience.

Following the programme visitors were encouraged to join in a question and answer session before having a last look at the exhibition before it closed at 5 pm.

City Wall Productions at St Marys

The focus moved on to St Andrew-by-the- Ford the following week, Saturday 25th.This time the exhibition posed some unique problems, not least was the lack of electricity supply. The format was very similar to the previous weeks but with a slide show in place of the talks, power for the projector being provided by a generator.

St Andrew by the Ford

The charming little church was candlelit with the addition of some free standing lights at strategic places to help illuminate the displays. Several of these displays had the same themes as the previous week. These included a brief history of the church, the incumbents and a print of Ford’s Tithe map. Another display that made the short journey from St Mary’s was the Great War memorial to the fallen.

Possibly the most important religious and historical feature of St Andrew’s is the ancient wall paintings which are deteriorating very quickly. The lack of light made it almost impossible to observe them so a series of photographs were taken by photographer, Roy Clarke, and these were included in the slide show, enabling the visitors to study them in much clearer detail. The photographs were preceded by a sequence of slides plotting the growth of Ford with slides of ancient maps. More photos taken by Roy Clarke were used to highlight other features of the church which were not easily viewed in the candlelight.

Vocal music for the afternoon was supplied by ‘Pieces of Eight’ an octet based at the University of Chichester who gave two excellent sets of choral singing, the first taking part in the church and the second taking place outside in the spring sunshine.

Pieces of Eight outside St Andrews

Again, as the week before, people were encouraged to join in a question and answer session before having a last look around the exhibition.

The highlight of both exhibitions was the production of the ‘Church Plate’ from their safe keeping at Chichester Cathedral. The pieces of silverware are over 300 years old and were displayed on their respective alters for the duration of the exhibitions and discussed during the question and answer sessions.

The highlight of both exhibitions was the production of the ‘Church Plate’ from their safe keeping at Chichester Cathedral. The pieces of silverware are over 300 years old and were displayed on their respective alters for the duration of the exhibitions and discussed during the question and answer sessions.

Wall paintings at St Andrews

To complement the two events the Yapton Free Church staged an exhibition to coincide with that of Ford. Jo Jeffers from Yapton Free Church said:

Yapton Free Church appreciated joining the History Group and churches in this local exhibition. We had a steady flow of visitors throughout the day and very much enjoyed investigating the history of Yapton Free Church. Thank you to all those who came and supported the day. It was lovely to speak with local residents who had their own memories and stories of the Free Church. We also appreciated the support of the History Group in sharing their knowledge and expertise.”

I would like to thank everyone who assisted with the organisation and research in staging these events. Without their help and dedication the success achieved would not have been possible.

I would like to thank in particular Rev. Richard Hayes for giving us free access to both churches and allowing us to arrange the displays to their best advantage. Also to Chris Weymouth and David Donovan for whom nothing was too much trouble as well as providing a constant supply of refreshments during the events. My thanks also go to Yapton Parish Council, Yapton Cottage Gardeners, University of Chichester and A-Plant for the loan of equipment.

My final word is to say that the research into the history of both churches is ongoing and I would love to hear from anyone who has any photos or memorabilia, especially of past ministers, that they would like to share with us and help make the history as complete as possible.

Allen Misselbrook
Chairman
Yapton & Ford Local History Group
May 2015

(Originally published in Yapton News, May 2015)